|System: PSP||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Super Villain Studios||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: 2K Games||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Oct 2006||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1 - 2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|Review by Mike||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Mike Chasselwaite
Dungeon Siege: Throne of Agony is an entry-level dungeon crawler. Another name for it could be Dungeon Siege-Lite. This is the first handheld appearance for the popular series. Its fun, simple and doesnt spare the horsepower when it comes to some of the production values - but there is a dark side to this game.
For all its excellent audio, visuals and intuitive control system, Dungeon Siege: Throne of Agony comes across as a budget title due to a variety of technical glitches and redundancy in level design and gameplay. Some of these bugs will slow down the pace of the game to a crawl, but not a dungeon crawl. The crawls these bugs cause are sure to make your skin crawl. Youll get hung up in the environment, sometimes to the degree of having to shut the game down and reload it. Other snags include inadvertent pauses, long loads and some unresponsive button commands which fortunately dont occur in-game, but with the menu system. Its too bad this game isnt more technically sound because it could have been a contender for PSP game of the year. These bugs arent enough to make this game suck but they manage to take a great game down to good.
Get ready for plenty of button mashing as you slice and dice your way through fantasy realms filled with threatening monsters and treasures. If youre a fan of Gauntlet youll be familiar with the gameplay which is even more basic. Choose from one of three characters (mage, warrior or ranger) and embark on a quest that will lead you through a variety of environments such as dark forest, fables towns and frozen wastelands, all with their own unique dangers and rewards. The object of the game is to proceed through the somewhat linear path while killing monsters, leveling-up abilities and collecting treasures and other goodies. Its a concept that is all too familiar, replete with a hackneyed storyline, but the Dungeon Siege series has always added different spices to the mix which give the games a different and irresistible flavor. As I mentioned, this handheld version is a simplified version of its PC brethren, but there is a more difficult mode called the Elite mode which should appeal to hardcores.
The simplification of the gameplay has basically trimmed the fat off the franchise. Its maintained all of the basic traits and forces us to get more mileage from things such as basic attacks, weapons, inventory slots, attributes and potions. The game itself has not been reduced, at more than 20 hours, if you take on most of the side-quest, this is a lengthy single-player mode. There is a multi-player mode but its not accessible online. More on that later. I find the limitations to be a refreshing change. Not having to cycle through a huge list of inventory really keeps things moving. All you have to do is push a couple of buttons and youre good to go. The downside to that is that you cant take everything that you find with you. You can take some of it into town to sell but that gets tedious after a while. Just pick out the best stuff and leave the rest.
Along with choosing the main character, you will also have to choose a companion or pet. These companions will assist you in battles and should be chosen carefully as they should have attributes somewhat different to yours so as to make your team a more well rounded threat. Just like your main character that can be upgraded to Hero and eventually Legendary, so too can your companion be upgraded by investing your experience points in any of the appropriate attributes. Deciding on your upgrades for you and your pet adds some depth and strategy to the gameplay which is most welcome since there isnt much variety to the standard attacks. Progressing through the game you will eventually amass a small collection of pets with different attributes which you can then pick from to help you out with a specific task.
The monsters are varied and they will sport different attacks which tends to mix things up a little in terms of how you react to them. On the easy level youll find yourself almost invincible, regardless of how many monsters attack you at one time. The more you level-up the more powerful you will become but the monsters that you encounter will also be more powerful and challenging. Youll recognize many of the monsters from the PC version but there is also plenty of new ones.
A multi-player mode is available but only through the ad-hock wireless system. It only supports two players but thats enough to add some extensive replay value to this package. You can replay the single-player mission a couple of times as different characters with different attributes leveled-up but you can also choose to add different items to your inventory and select different companions as well. I do admit that the hacking and slashing can get a bit tedious but its perfectly suited for a portable system where you tend to play in bits and bites.
The controls couldnt be easier and they are very responsive. Unlike the PC version, you have full control of the character and his attacks as they are in real time. It makes a huge difference as it draws you more into the game. The world map tends to slow the gameplay down too much with some very long loads. The music is culled from the PC and is some of the best you will ever hear for any game. Its richly symphonic and fits the scenes brilliantly. The voiceacting is very good and despite the tired storyline the actors breath new life into the dialog weve all heard before. The environments are diverse but once youre in one particular level, it doesnt vary much from beginning to end.
For a fantasy hack and slash, you could certainly do a lot worse. Recommended for beginners and intermediate gamers that will take their time savoring the flavors of the gameplay one bite at a time instead of trying to gulp it down all at once.
CCC Freelance Writer
Welcome to the Dungeon. by Adam Brown
PSP owners with a hankering for some serious dungeon-crawling action should take notice. Dungeon Siege: Throne of Agony is set for release this fall and it looks like it will please most fans of the genre. Throne of Agony will be set in the same time period as the Broken World expansion. It will also maintain a similar look to the other Dungeon Siege games out for the PC. The only major differences will come in having a smaller party without the expansive outdoor environments.
Players will now only have access to one other party member at a time instead of the normal five or six. While this may initially seem like a step backward, it actually carries with it some benefits. All of your party members will earn experience at the same rate. Even if you ignore one member, they will continue to level up with the rest of your party. The other major benefit is that with only two characters the games camera can stay a lot closer to the action, giving you a much better view. Players will also be able to use the PSPs D-pad to quickly switch their party members in and out. As you discover party members, they will become a part of your pool of characters to choose from. After this, it is just a matter of selecting the right character for the right situation. If you need healed, swap in your medic character, but if you need help in a ferocious battle, swap in your warrior character. This may seem overly simplistic, but it appears as though it will add an interesting layer of strategy.
Because the PSPs processing power is lower than most gaming PCs, Throne of Agony will not be able to include any mammoth outdoor environments. Instead, the player will make use of the games new Overland Map to get around the in-game world. Dungeons and cities will be displayed on the map with icons. Players will have to move their characters representation around the map until they reach the place where they would like to go. While this may not be ideal, it is necessary given the hardware and it should work fairly well.
When starting a game, players will get to choose between two initial playable characters. Players will either play as a battlemage in pursuit of his lost lover or as a warlord who gets lost because of a magical rune. These characters will be pre-made with customization coming later by way of choosing the characters hero and legendary classes. Players will also be able to unlock special attacks and upgrade specific abilities along the way. While there will only be two of each class to choose from, it should add quite a bit of variety and replay value to the game.
Dungeon Siege: Throne of Agony will not only have a long and engrossing single-player mode but it will also include a co-op multiplayer mode. This will be the only time the player will have more than two characters on-screen at a time because both players will bring along their other character. While not much else has been said about this mode, it is believed that the entire single-player game will be playable through this wireless co-op game option. Dungeon Siege: Throne of Agony looks to be shaping up as a great dungeon crawling experience for the PSP. Lets hope it will live up to expectations upon its release in the fall of 2006.
By Adam Brown
CCC Freelance Writer